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Not with a bang but with chintz – Tony, Cherie and the dangers of saying Farewell September 26, 2006

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Labour Party, gordon brown, The Left, Tony Blair, Uncategorized.

Good speech today by Tony Blair. Good speech yesterday by Gordon Brown. Dreadful misstep by Cherie Booth which marred Blair’s last conference speech as leader, even if he did manage to make a couple of wisecracks such as “At least I don’t have to worry about her running off with the bloke next door.” Humour is fine, it’s perhaps essential in selling a centre left message, but it’s completely insufficient at papering over the cracks in a pivotal political relationship which has served Britain (and this island to as regards the North) better than the cheerleaders of either protagonist appear willing to admit.

It’s hard not to feel that the whole situation, as it has played out this last few weeks, is a futile exercise. Here is a profoundly successful centre-left leader, who has to a large degree mortgaged his reputation on the apparently less and less successful intervention in Iraq, caught up in an internal power struggle at the very heart of the New Labour project.

Add in a partner who – at the very least – appears to have put herself in a position where she was misquoted, or alternatively actually stated a ludicrous comment borne of bitterness. And the response of her own father and his partner, interviewed on Channel Four news indicates the depths currently being plumbed. Disputes over curtains? Is this where it all ends? Chintz?

Cherie’s comment, whether accurately reported or not, has cast a shadow not merely over Gordon Brown’s speech, but also that of Tony Blair. What could have been a fine, defining moment where one era ended and another began was marred by the implication of churlishness. And to what point? Blair is a compromised figure. The steady attrition from Iraq impinges upon his own legacy. His political charm is dissipating as new figures (Alan Johnson – capable no doubt, but whohe?) jostle onto stage. Brown is moving towards a coronation, perhaps deserved, perhaps not. But the sour small of ambition denied and power husbanded (so to speak) is a grim reminder of the old maxim about power corrupting…

So well done, one and all. The lack of seriousness displayed over the past couple of days, the self-indulgence and the willful lack of discipline is reminiscent of another period in British political history some fourteen odd years ago when another party allowed itself to eke out it’s final moments in power in dribs and drabs.

Labour is not there yet. Not nearly there yet. But to Blair et al I’d tend to think an approach of ‘here’s your hat, where’s your hurry?’ might be the best for the future.


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